LONG BEACH, Calif. — Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. One company is offering grants to Black-owned businesses to help during this time.
Rolling out her yoga mat is how Dr. Ebony Utley starts every class. But now her sessions look a bit different, because they are in her home studio over Zoom.
Dr. Utley has her PHD in Communications Studies and is a professor at Long Beach State, but she turned her yoga hobby into a side hustle and became a certified teacher.
She created Ebony Yoga to offer a safe space for the Black community and people of color. She would teach at various events, even renting studio space for her first Sundays, but that all stopped once coronavirus hit. Dr. Utley had to figure out how to take her classes virtual, but she says it’s not as easy as it looks.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know how to teach online.’ I didn’t have an iPhone at the time. I said it was too much of a hassle,” said Dr. Utley.
This is when she learned about Finli, a company that helps small business owners accept their payments, keep their books, and even host their virtual classes. Dr. Utley says this allows her to only focus on what she does best, teaching yoga.
“I don’t have to track anyone down for money. I don’t have to worry about checks processing, because I know that’s a hang-up for a lot of small business owners,” said Dr. Utley.
But, what’s even better is that she was one of 25 recipients of the Finli Grant for Black-owned businesses. The company raised $17,000 to help Black entrepreneurs stay afloat during the pandemic. Finli is still accepting donations and applications for the grant.
“It was affirming and really important because a lot of times for Black business owners, there are roadblocks that other owners don’t always face. If someone wants to support you, you should go for it by all means,” said Dr. Utley.
The yoga instructor was able to make her classes more professional by buying new equipment to upgrade her home studio.
“I was able to buy my lights, my HDMI connector, and my screen. These were things I didn’t necessarily need to run my business, but with the grant, I can have them and I think it improves the experience,” said Dr. Utley.
Now she says she will never go back to in-person classes. She actually has more students now than when she taught face to face.
“Not having to pay an overhead, not having to drive in Los Angeles, and not having to pay for parking. It’s a win,” said Dr. Utley.
You can support other small businesses by attending their virtual classes through Finli Classes.